Ida, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski is a quiet, subtle little film that frames the theme of unjust loss and self-discovery in a post war Poland in such a beautiful way. This film wonderfully captures the tone and feeling of such events in the most unique, interesting and subdued way I have possibly ever seen.
Ida is the story of a young novitiate nun named Annie, who is preparing to take her vows when a dark family secret dating back to World War 2 rears its head and she is sent on a journey of self-discovery and the furthering of her understanding of where she came from and how she came to be where she is now. Helped by her Aunt, her only known living relative, the two travel around Poland searching for the answers to their deceased family members while also butting heads on how the two choose to live their respective lives.
The first thing that jumped out at me while watching Ida was just how beautifully this film is shot. Director Pawel Pawlikowski chose to shoot the entire film in black and white and in a 4 by 3 aspect ratio, this results in each scene being framed to absolute perfection, each one is as beautiful as the last. The whole film feels like a moving painting, with the framing on everything having such a deliberate mastery to it. I was continually captivated by each moment in Ida, even when the most simple of moments were happening on screen I would be entranced by it. I truly loved how much the cinematography added a whole new feeling to what is already a bitter sweet little film.
The performances in Ida are ones of reserved beauty. The two leads in the film, Agata Trzebuchowska who plays Annie and Agata Kulesza who plays Annie’s auntie Wanda are both brilliant in this film. The two play characters who couldn’t be more different from one another, one of them is a practicing nun and the other is a former state judge who enjoys the polish night life. Watching the differences between these two characters come to a head as they both travel Poland looking for the answers to their lost loved ones disappearance is heart breaking and fascinating at the same time. Both actresses are sublime in their roles and bring such a heartfelt realism to their performances. I so desperately wanted them to discover the truth of what happened to their family members and beyond that I wanted them to find happiness with each other and the life choices they had both chosen to take. The journey that both these characters go on is beautiful and sad at the same time and is one that was incredible to watch.
Which leads on to the story of Ida, I’ve touched on it quite a bit already but what I will say is that just like the wonderfully fleshed out characters, the story in Ida is hauntingly addictive. What first stared off as a story that seemed pretty run of the mill, turned into something much more interesting and what I loved about the way in which it was handled is that that film leaves portions of it up to your interpretation, director Pawlikowski does not give you everything served up on a platter of simplicity, instead he uses quick and subtle little shots to show something instead of saying it and expects you to notice it and understand what it means. I love stuff like that in films and Pawlikowski does it perfectly, a lot of the development in this film, whether it be the characters or the story is done by showing you something, by dropping little hints as to what may be happening or has happened and your left to figure out the smaller nuances yourself and that just made Ida an even more engaging of a film to experience than it already was.
I don’t want to say too much more because Ida is a film that should just be seen and enjoyed. That is why I recommend Ida whole heartedly; I adored this film and hope you will as well.